Believe it or not, QR codes have been around since 1994. They can be a cheap, convenient way to drive people with smartphones to your Web site, a YouTube video, or other online offers and content. QR codes are essentially barcodes that look like a pattern of black squares against a white background. Any smartphone user who has downloaded the necessary app can scan the code and will automatically be taken to wherever you want them to go on the Web.

So why are QR codes so popular? What are the benefits to using them in your advertising?

  1. They’re free! You can create QR codes with tools like and drop them onto your advertising materials.
  2. They are gaining popularity. For the three-month period ending in October 2011, a monthly average of 20.1 million U.S. mobile phone owners scanned a QR code using their device, according to comScore.
  3. If you are trying to reach a young, primarily male audience, QR codes are a perfect fit. In the above-mentioned study, 60.5 percent of those who scanned a QR code were male and 53.4 percent were aged 18 to 34.
  4. It is easy to track their effect. There are many free and paid Web services that can help you track how your code is performing. Google Analytics can track how much traffic QR codes are driving to your site. QR code services such as QReateBUZZ, TAGO, and BeQRious offer more detailed analytics.
  5. You typically do marketing in places people have free time on their hands—and are therefore willing to take the time to scan a code with their smartphones. A popular example is a winery that puts a QR code on their wine bottles for customers to scan over dinner.

So why doesn’t everyone use them in every possible place they can? It does take some work to skillfully incorporate them into advertising materials. Many potential customers won’t know what a QR code is or does, so you’ll have to include a brief explanation as a caption to the QR code. Consider adding a shortened version of the URL near the QR code, for those who don’t understand QR codes or don’t want to take the time to download the app.

Also, if the QR code takes people to your Web site, it is advisable to have your Web site optimized for mobile viewing. Sending customers to a site that doesn’t display well on a smartphone isn’t going to show your brand in a positive light. For the many businesses that have not yet optimized their Web site (this takes a lot more work than creating QR codes!), it is probably best to take this step before attempting to market with QR codes.

So, as with any marketing tool, QR codes are great for some businesses and not for others. Take a look at your audience and your business and ask yourself if QR codes are right for you.

Ideas for Authors

Due to their inexpensiveness, QR codes can be a great tool for authors to promote themselves and their books. Here are some quick ideas:

  1. On your business cards: Putting a QR code on your business card can give people quick access to your Web site or blog. Include the link as well, for those who don’t have smartphones.
  2. In your book. A QR code can be incorporated into the design of your book to take the reader to more content, like a YouTube video of you discussing your book, a readers’ discussion guide, a photo gallery, or other extras.
  3. On a bookmark. Give out bookmarks with a QR code taking people to where they can buy your book.
Share this: